AMP students showcase innovative research and programming

Kristine West and Caitlyn Keo

Kristine West collaborated with student Caitlyn Keo on an AMP research project about hiring effective teachers. Photo by Sharon Rolenc

Assistantship Mentoring Program (AMP) project presentations

Last week, students delivered final presentations on 33 Assistantship Mentoring Program (AMP) projects covering a range of programs and academic disciplines. AMP provides paid scholarly opportunities for students to collaborate with faculty or staff on specific research or program development projects.

In one research project, Caitlyn Keo collaborated with Kristine West, assistant professor of economics, on hiring effective teachers. The two are examining 2014–15 data from a large Midwestern school to discern whether teachers who are given early job offers are more effective in the classroom, based on principal observations, student surveys and value-added measures.

“With our research, we seek to fill a void and quantify the impact of late-hiring on districts and students,” says Keo.

In addition to building quantitative skills and navigating data collection in a professional setting, the project pushed Keo out of her comfort zone — which she welcomes. “Speaking engagements, presentations like this are daunting for me. So one of the goals I outlined in this project was to carve out opportunities to articulate myself,” she says.

The AMP experience also inspired Keo to consider a career in educational policy or research, and she’s currently looking into graduate school options.

“Assistants and mentors constantly push each other to reexamine their scholarship, work, roles, and ideas,” says Lorissa Gottschalk, assistant director of AMP. “Every day on our campuses, their collaborations result in innovation — new classroom structures, new research questions, and new approaches to programming.”

Thelma Obah, Laura Mena '16, Ikram Koliso '17 and Elizabeth Steffen collaborated on the Emerging Scholars Study Advocates program. Photo by Sharon Rolenc.

Thelma Obah, Laura Mena '16, Ikram Koliso '17 and Elizabeth Steffen collaborated on the Emerging Scholars Study Advocates program. Photo by Sharon Rolenc.

Launching first-generation students

The Emerging Scholars Community is one new program area that saw success this year due to an AMP project led by Ikram Koliso '17 and Laura Mena '16, in collaboration with Thelma Obah, director of the O’Neill Center for Academic Development, and Elizabeth Steffen, complex coordinator for Residence Life.

Koliso and Mena developed the Emerging Scholars Study Advocates program to help guide students who reside in the Emerging Scholars Community through their first year on campus. Many of the residents of the newly-formed community are considered academically under-prepared, including first-generation college students, and need extra assistance and resources to ensure success.

Through office hours, mentorship, social gatherings and various academic initiatives that included study groups, Koliso and Mena exposed Emerging Scholars residents to a range of academic and social resources.

The AMP experience provided Koliso and Mena with powerful insight on how to work effectively with a diverse student body. For faculty and staff who are working with first-generation students, they give this simple advice: have high expectations.

“Sometimes well-intentioned faculty or staff don’t want to put added stress on first-generation students,” says Koliso. “But how do I know to expect more of myself, if no one else has high expectations of me? How do I reach my potential?”

First-generation students may also lack self-confidence, which can inhibit them from asking questions or seeking the help they desperately need. Koliso’s own experiences were mirrored in the students she helped.

“I remember being very intimidated about talking to professors. I worried about going to office hours and asking questions – am I asking a stupid question? Should I have known this already?” says Koliso. Her advice? “Make them feel welcome. Let your students know you are available and open to speaking with them — and that there are resources to help them.”

The two add that it’s important to provide access to leadership opportunities for all students.

“A lot of emerging scholars don't see themselves as leaders, but have great potential. Present them with opportunities and encourage them to try,” adds Mena.

Emerging Scholars saw 100 percent retention rate from first to second semester, and over 50 percent achieved a 3.0 GPA or higher.

“Ikram and Laura’s willingness to go above and beyond — and to really meet students where they are at — has been incredibly helpful and fun to watch,” says Steffen. “It has definitely gone better and further and more successful than we could have ever imagined.”

Learn more about AMP, including the next deadlines for applications (Nov. 10).

By Sharon Rolenc